The 400 Bird Quest - A fish this long…

 Count Update:  275 /400

Our son, Jeff, came down from New Hampshire to visit for a few days. We went offshore fishing to celebrate his 30th birthday.   A 42’ boat took us 15 miles out into the Atlantic on a beautiful blue sky calm day.  We trolled for a while with no luck and then anchored up.   We were fishing on the bottom in 85’ of water with heavy gear.  We caught and released a couple of nice red snappers that were out of season.  Jeff hooked a large cobia, about 3 feet long which broke the line right alongside the boat.  This type of fishing is not like in Minnesota.  With such heavy gear it is a mild chore just reeling in an empty hook.  

Snapper Jeff FL 3-2018.JPG

I felt a bite that meant business. The stiff rod bent over immediately.   I pulled hard and tried to keep reeling as I was instructed, but this fish ignored the suggestion.  It went where it wanted and took out line.  It felt like there was a car on the line, and not a Camry, more like a Dodge Charger or one of those 2 story dump trucks they use on the Iron Range.  The virtual stalemate went on for minutes, but seemed like hours.  Slowly I gained a bit more line then it took out and eventually worked the monster up near the surface.  No fish is compliant at this point in the process.  It is the point in any fight when you can almost hear the fish repeat its self-affirmations aloud and resolve to fight with new found energy.   It was not a fish. The boat captain saw it identified it at a large sandbar shark, which are estimated to be 6’ long and weigh 100-200 pounds. I felt it pull its hardest yet and then it was gone.   Moments before the line broke, Jeff recorded this short video along with the standard issue “ridicule” at my expense.   The captain claimed that since I had reeled it all the way up to the sinker (we had 6’ leaders beyond that), it is counted as a ‘catch’.  I don’t know about that?   In the fog of war, I don’t know how far in it was.  All I could do was hang on to the rod and try to stay in the boat.   I don’t think the shark ever broke the surface.  I never saw it.     The Captain said they would have cut the line anyway.  They don’t take large sharks on board the boat.   According to my Youtube research later, that’s a good policy.  When it was over I was totally spent.  My arms arched and were sore for a couple of days after.  Unforgettable!  A big thank you to Jeff for having the foresight to film it. 

Out at sea, we saw a few Northern Gannets. The only new bird for the year was a distant Jaeger chasing a Laughing Gull. I could not determine if it was a Parasitic Jaeger or Pomarine Jaeger.  Both are known to be in this area.  Technical note on bird list:  While I have found Mute Swan, Indian Peafowl, and Yellow-crowned Parrot in Florida, I am not counted them at this time.   Although 2 are on the official American Birding Associations (ABA) official species list, they are not on the official Florida Ornithological Society (FOS) checklist. These species are established in Florida from escaped domestic birds but have not established wild populations here long enough or large enough to be considered truly wild at this time.  Due to the ABA - FOS list conflict, I am not counting them on my lists at this time.